Heads Up Sales…Change Is Coming
One of the things I hear most often as we work with clients or when I speak to marketing professionals is, “We cannot change the sales process.” The thinking behind this is that sales has an established process in place and to disrupt that process would be detrimental to the organization and its ability to make it’s number. The idea that marketing should make changes but stop at a demarcation line and let sales run per the established process is not a going to work.
While I can understand the hesitancy to upset the “sales apple cart,” the reality is that for all the changes marketing needs to make to develop a strategic approach to demand generation, sales also needs to change. Demand generation is a marketing AND sales activity, sales doesn’t work in a silo.
Here are a few changes that B2B sales professionals need to make to be more successful:
- There is No Longer a “Sales Process”
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that sales needs to define a process whereby they receive, manage and close opportunities. So in that respect, there is a defined sales process. However, many sales people I speak to are still in the dark (or unwilling) when it comes to acknowledging the new world of the B2B buyer.
The whole of purchasing has shifted to a buying process and buyers do not care about the sales process. The new normal is that they care about their own process and will run it as they choose and sales has little choice in the matter. The sooner sales understands this and becomes part of the demand generation equation, the better success they will have.
- Truly Understand the Buyers from Their Perspective
Not long ago my team and I were presenting insights into their buyers to a client. My team had conducted numerous customer interviews, interviewed a good number of the sales team, combed through piles of data, conducted primary and secondary research into their market to understand buying triggers and had even spoken to our client’s prospects. When the insight brief was completed, the head of sales responded with, “that is not who are buyers are.” He continued to give a much different picture of their buyers and when asked where he received his information he replied, “I’ve been selling for a long time, I think I know what our buyers need.”
While there is no doubt this gentleman knew some about his customers, he had an inside-out view, rather than an outside-in view of his buyers. He had been so insulated by his own company that he was failing to see that his view of his buyer was just a small part of their profile. It wasn’t incorrect, however, had he expanded his view to be more holisitic he would have been much more successful.
- Become an Expert in Your Field
I do not know of any sales rep who cannot speak about their company, their products and why you should trust them with you business. However, I find few that can speak to the market, challenges and issues as a subject matter expert.
As buyers consume more content, become more sophisticated and continue to wait longer to interact with vendors, sales reps need to be able to participate in the conversation early on without “selling” to their buyers. This requires reps to be subject matter experts and engage in meaningful dialogue through relevant content, social media, face-to-face conversations, and other channels. This is a new core competency of the new B2B sales rep and those that adapt will win much more than they will lose.
- Accept the Reality
I once worked for a company where the CEO would continually remind marketing that “sales was our customer.” This was not an all to uncommon refrain in many companies and unfortunately, there are still some who believe this. One could argue that at no time should this have ever been the case, however, it most certainly is not the case today. The buyer is both a marketing and a sales customer and this is a reality that needs to take hold for sales (and also for many in marketing). Who owns the buyer isn’t the point.
This issue underscores why sales needs to work with marketing in the development of strategic demand generation programs. When the buyers become the focal point for marketing and sales teams, the alignment issues go away and increased success abounds.
There is clearly more work ahead for B2B organizations who are trying to keep pace with the ever-changing B2B buying environment. However, this change cannot be the sole responsibility of marketing if programs are going to be successful. Sales must change and adapt to the needs of the modern buyer or change may happen the hard way, without them.